'The Night Listener' ** 090606
(2006) Movie Review


The Work = **
While I can’t recommend 'The Night Listener' I can say that this is probably the best acted, slow, predictable, movie I have seen in a long time. I am conflicted and maybe I need to re-watch the film. Robin Williams, Toni Collette and the rest of the cast all give winning performances but the trouble is, that is all to recommend in the film. Not recommended.

Still, I don’t want to give the impression that this is a bad film. Had 'The Night Listener' been more of a drama and a character study, I suspect it would have been a more successful feature. Instead, the movie played to me like it was a thriller. Unfortunately, it was a slow thriller with little character or action.

I have to wonder if part of the problem is the filmmakers sticking too close to the real story that 'The Night Listener' is based on. The plot more or less follows radio DJ Gabriel Noone (Williams) as he forms a bond with a young listener, (Rory Culkin.) The pair have series of phone conversations and Noone befriends Pete. Over the course of their talks Noone begins to take more and more interest in Pete’s welfare.

I will leave Pete’s story a mystery to you. Needless to say the more Noone looks into the boy’s life, the more worrying his tale becomes, (and it was a troubling one to begin with.) Noone’s long time boyfriend has broken up with him and there is some suggestion that Noone is filling a void left in his life with the young listener. Where the film goes you can discover but I found it extremely predictable.

The actors all pull through with their performances but director Patrick Stettner can’t seem to create much tension with the material. A scene involving a bigoted police officer is one of the few with any real sense of urgency or dread. Stettner wrangles good performances but doesn’t do much else with the material (and what the heck is up with the strange opening credit sequence that seems so out of place.)

Perhaps had the filmmakers delved more into the story of Collette’s caretaker character role: Donna, 'The Night Listener' might have had some fresh material to go by. I don’t know what the real story of 'The Night Listener' was or how close the film stuck to it but maybe venturing more into the realm of fiction would have made the film more enjoyable. If you enjoy the actors in 'The Night Listener' then it might be worth a rental, otherwise not recommended.


'The Night Listener' Links:


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